Friday, August 28, 2015

Stephen King: "Can A Novelist Be Too Productive?"

Stephen King, New York Times:
There are many unspoken postulates in literary criticism, one being that the more one writes, the less remarkable one's work is apt to be. ...

This is not a roundabout way of justifying my own prolificacy. Yes, I've published more than 55 novels. Yes, I have employed a pseudonym (Richard Bachman). Yes, I once published four books in one year (shades of James Patterson ... except mine were longer, and written without the aid of a collaborator). And yes, I once wrote a novel ("The Running Man") in a single week. But I can say, with complete honesty, that I never had any choice.

As a young man, my head was like a crowded movie theater where someone has just yelled "Fire!" and everyone scrambles for the exits at once. I had a thousand ideas but only 10 fingers and one typewriter. There were days — I'm not kidding about this, or exaggerating — when I thought all the clamoring voices in my mind would drive me insane. ...

My thesis here is a modest one: that prolificacy is sometimes inevitable, and has its place. The accepted definition — "producing much fruit, or foliage, or many offspring" — has an optimistic ring, at least to my ear.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Death Merchant #53: The Judas Scrolls

A British archaeologist discovers twenty-seven ancient scrolls in the west Bank of Jordan. The scrolls, written by none other than Judas Iscariot, contain information so devastating it could bring the Vatican to its knees.

Then the Palestine Resistance League steals the valuable scrolls and offers them to the highest bidder - Russia or the Vatican. Price: $30 million. But then the scrolls are stolen again.

This deadly game of hide and seek could undermine the entire Christian world. Only the Death Merchant, master of cunning and disguise, can stop it. He must penetrate the enemy dragnet and find the scrolls before the Russians do. But now the hard part - even Camellion's not so sure he can get out of this death trap alive.


***
Twenty-seven ancient scrolls have been discovered underneath the floor of a ruined temple near Mount Hebron by a British archeologist. It turns out that these scrolls were written by Judas Iscariot and as the back of this book says, the information they contain "could undermine the entire Christian world" and "bring the Vatican to its knees". But how can the scrolls be smuggled out of Israel?

Author Joseph Rosenberger lays out a somewhat complicated backstory that includes the scrolls being stolen by members of the Palestinian Resistance League and offered to either the Vatican or the KGB for $30 million, and then eventually hidden in a cave in the Arqā Mountains. Rosenberger explains the backstory of the scrolls, which state, among other things, that Jesus survived his ordeal on the cross (being a master yogi, he was able to "turn off" the pain) and lived to the age of either 51 or 64 - depending on where in the book you are reading.

Once again, I am amazed at the lengthy digressions that Rosenberger adds to his action narrative. I don't know that much about the men's adventure genre, but I'm assuming that no other writer did this kind of thing and certainly not to the extent Rosenberger did. His asides usually fall into one of two categories: philosophical/mystical or racial/social.

As the expedition team is assembled, Richard "Death Merchant" Camellion jokes, "Welcome aboard, Follmer. I hope you can get used to A-rabs. You're going to see plenty of sand crabs before this deal is over and done with." And in a blink of an eye, the narrative veers off into a long segment of right-wing racism and paranoia.
Follmer, who had walked over to the liquor and was pouring another vodka, said, "Almost anything would be better than the mess back in the States. I don't have to tell you about the race policy of the current crop of idiots in D.C. You know how we're being invaded by aliens. For example, 80 percent of the babies born in Los Angeles County hospitals in 1981 were to illegal aliens, to illegal immigrant mothers, almost all of them from Mexico—and all their medical expenses were paid by taxpayers."

Kelly Dillard laughed sinisterly. "Why you shouldn't talk like that!" he chided. "After all, the nonwhite trash mean more votes for the politicians, more money for businessmen, more souls for the two-faced clergy, and more opportunities for the goddamn race mixers to destroy America's white heritage."

"Ordinarily, I'm a fair-minded person," Phil LaHann said thoughtfully. "I must agree with you. We can see what the nonwhite morons have already done to the American educational system. The lowering of scholastic and disciplinary standards in order to accommodate the huge influx of black and Chicano students into previously all-white schools has resulted in one big mess. Whites are learning less, while the coons and spics are learning nothing, which is normal enough. But no one should be surprised that white students do not learn in a school system that sees more than 5,000 of its teachers assaulted each month. What a joke! One might as well try to 'educate' apes!"

The Death Merchant, who seldom involved himself in useless discussions, felt like saying Folks! You ain't seen nothin' yet! Knowing world history as he did, Camellion was only too aware of the road the United States was taking—For the federal government, for America's teeming nonwhite minorities, and even for a very substantial portion of the white majority, the choice is clear: they will continue straight ahead—

And into oblivion!

They will continue to clamor for more racial mixing in the schools, in residential neighborhoods, and on the job. They will continue to allow millions of nonwhite aliens to pour across the U.S. borders from Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Orient; and the U.S. economy and the standard of living will grow steadily worse. They will continue to push for more handouts for those who will not work, more indulgences for the least productive elements of society, more of the same permissiveness and lack of discipline that have helped bring on present problems.

The massive influx of aliens is rapidly transforming the character of America's population and the appearance of its cities. The principal beachheads of the foreign swarms—New York City and its environs, Florida, southern Texas, and California—are in the process of acquiring nonwhite majorities. The intruders—with the morals of camels—are taking over entire neighborhoods that once were home to native Americans of European stock.

It will end in a race war. The nonwhites will lose. They have neither the intelligence nor the firepower to win.
First of all, it's hilarious to read that the Death Merchant doesn't get involved in these political/social "discussions". In truth, he's often leading them! It's also interesting that Rosenberger, who regularly uses footnotes to back up various bits of arcane information, presents no citations here.

This is merely the first of several racist polemics found throughout The Judas Scrolls. While Rosenberger has always included this type of material in his books, there are more of them in this volume than I can recall reading in any earlier DM book. And the rants are longer and seem more serious, angrier. Long gone is any trace of the goofiness that used to characterize Rosenberger's rants.

Only five pages after this section, Rosenberger shows off another authorial quirk, writing a 12-page conversation between Camellion and two Jesuit priests who are accompanying the search for the scrolls. Earlier books have had off-topic philosophical discussions but nothing of this length and breadth. Rosenberger mentions the Shroud of Turin, the supposed ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, Nostradamus, the Essenes, Giovanni Pettinato, the Santorin volcano, the thoughts of Plato in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, Saint John Bosco, etc.

During this discussion, Camellion points out that "a new glacial age has begun":
Camellion proceeded to explain that the experts' alarming forecast was based on a number of incredible factors:

—The sun is shrinking at a rapid rate—much faster than scientists have predicted over the years. Already, over the past 400 years, the sun has lost a total area equivalent to that of 80,000 earths!

—The temperature of the earth is falling. A drop of only 4.9 degrees would result in the same freezing temperatures as those of the last Great Ice Age.

—The growing season is the food-producing temperate zones has shortened by three weeks in the past forty years.

Sizzling summers and vicious winters have killed more than 1,000 people during 1981 in the United States alone, and there are not any signs that the freakish weather will subside over the next decade.

—Shifts in the position of the sun, Earth and the other planets will change terrestrial climate dramatically. The result will be a new Ice Age. Colossal cold will creep throughout the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres, killing off agriculture altogether in many areas and severely reducing food production in others. Result: a worldwide famine. ...

"I'm thinking of a similar prediction," said Father Norton, "made by Johann Friede, a thirteenth-century Austrian monk. He said that toward the end of the world, mankind will face its last, hard trial. That the end would be foreshadowed by striking changes in nature, that the alternation between heat and cold will become more intense. He said storms will have more catastrophic effects. Earthquakes will destroy many lands and the seas will overflow into many lowlands."

LaHann said easily, "I'd be safe in saying that we can find clues to these troublesome times to come in a study of the zodiac. History—"

"Astrology is superstitious claptrap!" Father Gatdula said flatly.

"History and legend show an analogy between the archetypal temperaments of man and the twelve signs of the zodiac. A lot of historians feel it is these analogous relationships which underlie the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles of Christ, the twelve nights [sic] of King Arthur's Round Table, and the twelve labors of Hercules."
I can't help but wonder what Rosenberger, who died in 1993, would have thought of climate change and global warming. Also, Rosenberger has mentioned the recurring number of 12 in previous books, so I wonder how much of that he actually believed.

At one point, someone mentions how nice the United States government is to Israel:
"They're right about our being 'nice' to everyone," [Follmer] said in an unpleasant voice, his eyes raking Camellion. "Look how 'nice' we've been to the blacks. Since World War II, we've made fools of ourselves by restructuring our entire society in a stupid attempt to uphold the myth that we're all 'equal.' We've handed billions to those brillo heads to finance their idle ghetto loungings—and look at the result. Our streets and parks have been turned over to black punks, and then they plea-bargain and are turned loose on early parole so they can prey on us again. We've handcuffed our policemen, lest they make the slightest infringement of blacks' rights. We've forced our kids to go to school with those moron asses, and we've rubbed our kids' nose in lies about white guilt. And when none of it has worked, when the blacks remain as far as ever from 'equality' but are ten thousand times more surly, we bow our heads, go into a white Step'n' Fetchit act, and humbly beg their forgiveness—and give them still more. Yeah, we're 'nice' people. We're unrealistic idiots!"

"Oh, we're suckers in other ways too," Dillard said. "It's not just the jungle jigs we're 'nice' to. We've let millions of aliens swarm into the States and deprive our people of jobs. Spics, those gooks from Vietnam—you name it! We let 'em come in. The only Orientals who have any intelligence and culture are the Japanese—and they have too much sense to want to live in the United States."

While the Death Merchant totally disagreed with Follmer and Dillard, he was not putting on an act when he got in his six-and-a-half cents' worth.

"You're forgetting the traitors in our midst," he ground out. "All the scum who ran off to Canada; and when mobs of demonstrators—during the Vietnam years—paraded in the streets behind the banners of the Vietcong and spattered our nation's flag with filth and dragged it in the gutter, the police had to stand by and be careful not to violate the 'civil rights' of the scum. Later, the Washington, D.C., idiots welcomed home with open arms and forgiveness the thousands of traitors and deserters."

"They should have been shot," growled LaHann.

"Wrong!" snapped Camellion. "They should have strangled slowly with piano wire. There's nothing lower on this earth and in any society than a yellow belly who deserts his country."
Elsewhere, Dillard and Camellion have a talk about President Ronald Reagan and how someone should murder Senator Ted Kennedy (... but but but I thought the DM avoided such "useless discussions").

In two footnotes, Rosenberger describes Haitians as "murderous savages lacking in both conscience and morals" and Cubans as drug dealers responsible for the high murder rate in Dade County, Florida. Elsewhere, Rosenberger writes: "Like African blacks, Arabs are prone to become utterly bloodthirsty and sadistic during battle and to revert to instincts far lower than those in so-called animals. Controlled by such insanity, an Arab, or a black, will commit any murderous act. No atrocity is too cruel."

On the next-to-last page of the book, Camellion thinks to himself:
The United States was being flooded by an alien invasion from Southeast Asia, India, Burma, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Maylasia, Israel, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico. U.S. Education Commissioner Ernest Boyer had revealed during the winter of 1982 that only 28 percent of Americans eighteen and younger are Anglo, while 36 percent are black and 41 percent Hispanic. Only 39 percent of Anglo families have children in school, against 61 percent of Hispanic families who have children in public schools. It was only a matter of time before white Americans would be a minority in what was their land. Already the nation's schools were becoming obsolete and the United States was becoming a nation of undereducated citizens. Another fact was clear: if the taxable incomes of the rapidly increasing minority groups did not keep pace with their growth in numbers, the whites would either be taxed to death or the entire system would collapse—The latter is more likely because the white people are not going to take it. There's a lot of truth in what Bob Follmer says. One can look at the problem in terms of a diminishing upper and middle class having to support a lower class of ignorant, lazy trash. Right now there are more El Salvadorians as illegal aliens in Los Angeles than the total population of San Salvador! But the trash have a technique—any person who gives the facts is called a racist.
So regarding Follmer's views on immigration: Camellion is "more than a little disgusted" on page 71, "totally disagreed" with him on page 78, but admits on page 198 that "there's a lot of truth" in what he says. I don't think Camellion had a racist epiphany; it seems more likely that Rosenberger couldn't keep straight what he had written earlier in the book.

Interestingly, at one point, the Death Merchant defends poor blacks:
More than a little disgusted over Follmer's racism, Camellion sank to a chair and said in a cold voice, "You might have a different opinion if your skin were black. Consider for a moment what's happened recently. The rich got big tax breaks, but poor people—black and white—lost jobs, food assistance, training opportunities, and a lot more. As for the blacks—they exist in a cocoon of poverty and defeatism that's been handed down, from generation to generation, like some deadly inherited disease. The entire pathetic mess has congealed into a Lumpenproletariat of female-headed families, jobless men, and bitter young people. In short, my friend, don't profess to know all about another people until you've walked for a while in their moccasins."
However, the only footnotes included in this section offer validation for the racists' comments:
3 The FBI's Uniform Crime Report reveals that blacks commit violent crimes 8.5 times as often as whites, relative to their numbers in the overall U.S. population. Blacks are 7.2 times as likely to commit rape, 11.2 times as likely to commit murder, and 14.1 times as likely to commit robbery. Violent black crime is typically spontaneous rather than planned and reflects a general lack of inhibition and foresight.

4 In a newly published study, "Black-White Contacts in Schools: Its Social and Academic Effect," Purdue University sociologist Martin Patchen concludes: "Available evidence indicates that interracial contacts in schools does not have consistent positive effects on students' racial attitudes and behavior or on the academic performance of minority students." Italics mine—JRR.
Similarly, Camellion tells one member of his force to calm his hatred. "The Israelis are neither good nor bad. They're only 'the Other Side.'" Of course, that bit of advice comes only two pages after Rosenberger writes "the Death Merchant was still wanting to strangle—very slowly—every sand crab in Araby-land".

Rosenberger offers some extremely purple prose when it comes to describing Jabal Arqā:
The minutes raced by and all twelve of the birds were soon over the Jabal Arqā. In actuality, they were flying over the lower foothills of the actual mountains that were, in spite of their lack of height, jagged for forbidding, as though they were ill-omened tombstones in a disguised necropolis of hate. ...

Very suddenly he felt the cold, insidious evil of the Jabal Arqā, of these ancient mountains sick with spiritual putrescence. He could hear in his mind the shouted blasphemies in sixty different dialects from men who, over the long crawl of centuries, had fought and killed each other for possession of this barren real estate. Within their silent sobs and shouts, 10 million ghosts gave off a stench far more terrible than all the sins that humanity could commit, all the bitter maledictions thunderously denounced by holy men who lived in ape ignorance.

These mountains were actually crypts; and nothing, not even the breath of God Almighty could erase the blood that had flowed over the rocks and down through titanic arcades. Shapes of Hell howled and laughed and strode monstrously within the valleys, flitted across the face of the cliffs, and danced in mockery on the high peaks. The Cosmic Lord of Death had reigned supreme here, and nothing faintly holy would ever dare approach his kingdom. He still reigned within the mighty rocks and still held unhallowed rites with minions of the doomed, with incubi and succubi. There they were, all gathered in hideous abomination—Moloch and Beelzebub, swollen toads and ten-headed Moon calves—all singing the ghastly glories of eternal damnation.
And ... we get some nutty Camellion stream-of-consciousness:
This whole damn business is similar to abstract art—a product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered. But Grojean does have talent for intrigue. Ha! We're still the unprincipled, and the Jordies are more than bewildered! They're angry and afraid. Join the club, boys. So am I. ...

Parrot poop! We can't turn back. Let's hope none of these Jordanians get crazy-brave or stupid-foolish. What the hell! This still beats being in L.A. or New York City, where rats crawl over babies and all civilization has stopped. Crazy-brave? I don't think they will! ...

God Save the White Sox and damn the Mohawks if there are any left! ...

Yeah! And tuna fish is up 60 percent! Holy mackerel!
There is the inevitable martial arts segment in the climatic battle:
An expert, in thanatology, Camellion was no longer concerned about the gasping, gagging, choking Luvirol as he spun and concurrently used a double-handed Gedan barai to stop the leg of Gideon Alal Padon, who was trying to ace him out with a Mawashi geri roundhouse kick, and let fly a Mae geri kekomi that caught Josef Gann (who was also a secret Mossad agent) in the solar plexus, the vicious slam paralyzing Gann's central nervous system and almost making his eyes pop out of his head.

Padon was not as easy to terminate. Camellion barely managed to block a right Shuto knife hand aimed at his left temple and a Yon bon nukite four-finger spear thrust directed at his lower chest. He countered with a Tsuma-saki tip-of-toes kick, aimed at the testicles, combined with a right Herabasami inside-ridge-hand feint that was coupled with a left Yubi basami knuckle-fingertip strike that wanted the center of Padon's throat. Padon wasn't fooled. He made Camellion fail by using a Sukui uke scooping block. He then twisted and tried a right Ushiro kekomi geri rear thrust kick. Fatal mistake! Camellion stepped aside, snarled, "Geharget zolstu veren!" grabbed Padon's right ankle, and twisted as hard as he could to the left, Padon yelling in pain and anger as Camellion flipped him over and he fell heavily on his stomach, the fall knocking the wind out of him. He didn't have the time or the strength to jerk away. And he was in agony from his twisted leg, the pain shooting through his hip.

The Death Merchant released the leg, kicked Padon savagely in the left side of the rib cage, the slam breaking four ribs and bringing another howl of pain from the Israeli commando.

Victory! Camellion jumped high and came down on Padon's back, the heel of his left foot smashing into the Israeli's neck, his right foot slamming into the small of the back. There was a sound like two sticks being snapped. Padon shuddered and lay still.
Rosenberger translates "Geharget zolstu veren" as "Drop dead", literally "You should be killed". (However, a website translates this Yiddish phrase as "You should get killed.")

Finally, one dope no longer has to worry about his speech impediment:
Shuberinski had thrust his arm and hand inward for the stab he thought would end the life of Majid. Jumping back slightly, Majid had promptly brought down the heavy blade of the bi'rang and cut off Shuberinski's right hand. Only for a flashing second was the horrified Israeli able to witness the gush of blood pumping from his right wrist. He then felt the hidious pain—but again only for a moment—as Captain Majid slid the bloody blade of the bi'rang into his stomach and ripped upward. Never again would Shuberinski have to worry about his stuttering. H-H-He w-a-sss de-de-de-de-dead and si-si-si-si-sink-inggg into e-eter-nity.
Etc.:

Rosenberger lived in Arizona in the early 1980s and he includes two mentions of the area: "Nuts to that joker. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was an ex-member of the New York City—or Mesa, Arizona—Police Department!" and "This is almost as bad as going into a bar in Phoenix on a Saturday night!"

"The policeman went down in death faster than an Appalachian moonshiner running from an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent."

"As careful as a cow chewing a cud of cactus, he jumped from the starboard opening and started to move toward the nose."

"Belief in a god never requires logic, only superstition and a desperateness against the obvious, against oblivion. That kind of madness is called 'faith.'"

"Dillard, Follmer, and LaHann, having expected the worst kind of trouble (short of having hemorrhoids in Sydney, Australia) were not caught with their reflexes and attention span napping."

"[The Death Merchant] let fly a deadly right-legged Tae Kwon Do Hyung Chungdan Ap Chagi middle front snap kick that made the astonished Markek think he had run into an invisible steel wall."

"A holy man he was, but Allah didn't prevent a big 20mm projectile from opening up his chest the way a blast from a shotgun shatters a watermelon."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Death Merchant #52: The Flight Of The Phoenix

As the Phoenix X-2, an incredible cargo carrier that will change the face of the twentieth century, nears completion in Great Britain, a strange series of deaths and accidents escalate into a vile and mysterious pattern. Camellion isn't one to believe in coincidence. If there's anything illicit behind this X-2 operation he'll root it out and tear it apart.

The Phoenix X-2 is scheduled to make her maiden voyage, stopping at each major urban center across the globe. It's a perfect opportunity for sabotage - unless the Death Merchant can weave together all the clues and deliver a show stopping surprise ...

***
As The Flight of the Phoenix begins, Richard Camellion and CIA agent Sandra Irella are posing as journalists touring the hangar containing Phoenix II, an airship that is 1,300 feet long and over 400 feet high, shaped "like some gargantuan silver whale". (And kudos to artist Dean Cate for making the ship look whale-ish on the cover.) (Actually, the book opens with a three-page prologue, kind of an extended footnote from author Joseph Rosenberger, that recaps the history of the zeppelin.)

Camellion knows there have been a series of mysterious accidents surrounding the construction of the airship, which will make its first voyage in one month. During the tour, a truck arrives in the hangar unloading oxygen and acetylene cylinders. However, these employees are actually bad guys bent on destroying the Phoenix (some of the cylinders contain explosives). Camellion senses that something is not right and a shootout follows - "The Cosmic Lord of Death snickered and all hell broke loose" - with five of the seven "employees" dead and two taken away for questioning.

The Death is not happy to be working with a woman because they "don't have the necessary realism. They tend to hesitate." However, Camellion is assured that she is "almost as trigger-happy" as he is. (Also, he has worked successfully with women in previous books, so his reluctance doesn't make total sense.) Naturally, Sandra is an attractive blonde who fully expects Camellion to make a pass at her.
She had yet to meet the man who hadn't tried to get her between the sheets ... Thus far, during their two-day association, [Camellion] had been polite, though distant, yet totally self-assured. ... Let's face it, she told herself, he hadn't had the opportunity to make a pass at her. That opportunity would come later when they were alone in the Safe House, later that night. To the left of the sitting room was Camellion's bedroom. Sandra's was to the right of the sitting room. Furthermore, there weren't any locks on the door. Rape? No. He wasn't the type.

Then again, she thought, maybe balling with him might be a memorable experience. ... If he was half as good in bed [as he had been at the hangar], he'd be able to send her to paradise and back a dozen or more times. Yes indeed ... maybe it was a good thing the doors didn't have any locks ...
That night, when she expects Camellion to make his move, the Death Merchant is happily unpacking his beloved firearms and doing his Pranayma breathing exercises. (Later, they do sleep together, one of the few instances in the series of the Death Merchant getting laid. Sandra soon disappears from the narrative, however, and plays no role in the big showdown.)

The Death Merchant's mission is to find out who wants to sabotage the Phoenix II. The CIA believes it is an "international combine" named SCULL. The CIA has wiretaps on various SCULL locations, but have gathered no information.

The two captured gunmen confess and tell who recruited them for the job. One of the recruiters (Maurice Peronne) owns a jewelry shop in Paris, so Camellion and Irella fly off to France to black-bag him and see what they can learn. After a bit of torture, Perrone says he was given his orders by Abram Koznik, a member of the Israeli Mafia. And as luck would have it, Koznik owns a decorating business right there in Paris - and if they hurry, they can get over there before it closes for the day! Camellion and Irella pose as an elderly couple (the DM is a master of disguises, you'll recall) who want to have their 23-room house renovated. Once alone in the office, they pull their guns. There is another shootout as they escape with Koznik.

Rosenberger's insertion of information about the weapons and caliber of the various slugs gets in the way of the action:
Lowe's body almost exploded from the crossfire, from six of Captain Seibert's 9-millimeter slugs and ten of Sebastian's 7.62 x 51mm boat-tailed bullets. His entire front a mess of blood and gore, Lowe fell backward.

But Andy Sebastian had also bought the Big One. While four of Lowe's Ruger 5.46 x 45 (or .223 Remington) projectiles were stopped by the lower part of Sebastian's bullet-proof vest, two of the 5.46mms struck several inches below the vest ...

Odum, Bruthers, and Grovington fired like fanatics bent on a mission - which they were. Odum's High Standard 12-gauge boomed. The German H/K MP-5 of Grovington and the Austrian MPi-69 SMG of Bruthers snarled in unison.
I'm upset that the brand name and model number of Sebastian's vest was not included.

From Koznik, they get the name of Sidney Jensen, who is the director of SCULL's London office. There is some of Rosenberger's classic stream-of-consciousness on pages 107-08, as Camellion and his force ("men made tough and patient by the treacherous jungles of Vietnam") are on two helicopters flying to White Plains, New York, to invade Jensen's estate in a "total-kill operation".
Their warning strobe lights flashing, their Lycoming T53 free-turbine turboshaft engines roaring, the two Bell Iroquois helicopters moved northwest at 118 m.p.h., at an altitude of 7,840 feet, the gun-ships flying parallel to each other at a distance of 200 yards apart. ...

One fact was evident: within 25 hours, White Plains would make headlines in newspapers all over the world, not to mention TV newscasts in thirty different languages.

A nice little residential and retail-trade center, White Plains, mused the Death Merchant. Well, what must be must be. ...

On the banks of the Bronx and the Hutchinson Rivers, White Plains was an established settlement by 1735, its name derived from the Siwanoy Indians who called the village "Quarropas"—"white plains"—for the white balsam that grew in the area.

With a population of slightly over 50,000 and connected to New York City by railroad, White Plains already had its secure place in American history. The New York Provincial Congress had met there in 1776, approved the Declaration of Independence and proclaimed the creation of the state of New York. On October 28, 1776, General George Washington outfoxed British General Lord Howe at the Battle of Chatterton Hill—commemorated as White Plains National Battlefield Site.

Inwardly, the Death Merchant smiled. Within hours, White Plains will become famous. It will be the city, where the first major "terrorist" attack in the United States took place. The irony is that it is supposed to be "for the good of the American people."

The American people? Self-centered, materialistic unrealists, who were letting themselves go down the drain, all evidenced in the disturbing trend in the U.S. of the rise in irrationalism, a stupidity that was feeding off the nation's decrease in science and mathematics education. The contrast with foreign nations was downright embarrassing. All students in the Soviet Union receive five years in biology. Only one-half of American students receive as little as one year!—And the "Creationists" are trying to dilute even that pathetic amount.

Camellion wondered what any intelligent person could think of a nation in which a man in Little Rock, Arkansas, publicly stated in a courtroom that Unidentified Flying Objects were manifestations of "Satan?" Or a group of loonies selling all their belongings to advertise the date of something called a "rapture," when all the "saved" (?) will overcome the force of gravity and float bodily upward to "heaven?" Or a nation in which astrologers vastly outnumbered astronomers by roughly a 12 to 1 margin? Donkey dung!
This "terrorist attack" - the invasion of Jensen's White Plains estate and the kidnapping of Jensen - is blamed on a Cuban Nationalist group known as OMEGA-17 (after someone notes that they "can't blame what's left of the Weathermen and those goofy Black Liberation Army morons"). One member of the DM's team, Gene Morlog, expresses reservations about the 219 people that died because of this raid, including dozens of police officers who came to the scene after reports of gunshots and explosions. (Camellion berates Morlog for not seeing "various shades of gray involved", but that is exactly what Morlog is doing. It's the Death Merchant that has an all-or-nothing mentality, saying, "We will kill anyone who gets in our way.")
How could they have told the real truth, even if they had wanted to. They didn't! Watergate had been bad enough.

The Death Merchant sensed preternaturally that there was a single individual who might not conform to the rule of complete silence. That person was Gene Morlog (He would have made a wonderful Fundamentalist minister!). ...

For almost a week, ever since the crash operation against the estate, he had tolerated Morlog's increasing self-righteousness. Now, Morlog's remark about "three more murders" had made up the Death Merchant's mind about the man. Morlog had to go. The man was definitely dangerous. Sooner or later, he'll blab to the press and stir up a hornet's nest.

"Since you're such an expert on good and evil ..." Camellion's voice was pleasant enough and he looked directly at Morlog, "perhaps you could give us the answer to the theological problem of evil. It's an antilogism that stems from assuming three things, only two of which are compatible—the omnipotence of God, the omnibenevolence of God, and the existence of pure evil."

Traw gave an ugly little laugh. "You should be asking Jerry Falwell that one, Camellion!"

"Good and evil do exist," Morlog said guardedly, feeling that he had walked into quicksand. "But what does theology have to do with the problem of evil?"

"Epicurus presented it this way," Camellion said with relish. "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able to prevent evil? If that's the case, then He's not omnipotent. Or again: is God able to prevent evil, but not willing to prevent evil? Then He's not omnibenevolent? Or—is God both willing and able to prevent evil? If so, then why does evil exist?"

Interjected Marvin Kennedy, who was a sturdy man with a narrow, short-nosed face and slightly curly brown hair, "David Hume presented the same problem. According to Hume, if evil in the world is the intention of the Deity, then He is not benevolent. If evil on this planet is contrary to His intention, then He is not omnipotent. Hume's final conclusion was that evil is either in accordance with God's intention or is contrary to His intention. Therefore, either God is not benevolent, or He is not omnipotent."

Morlog looked like a man about to have his testicles dropped into a vise! "There's nothing sillier than trying to decide what God wants or doesn't want," he said frigidly. "Discussing problems in philosophy doesn't have anything to do with the fact that we deliberately murdered a lot of people so that a new kind of dirigible can fly across the Atlantic. Let's face it: it's not as if we killed those people in defense of the nation. It's not as if the U.S. and the United Kingdom were being invaded by the Soviet Union! All of you know it."

"The chap would seem to have a valid point," Joel Hampton said in measured tones. He looked at Gary Spickler who was sitting not far from Morlog in a Merrimack chair. "However, there are certain facts that invalidate your thesis, Mr. Morlog." His steady gaze swept into a nervous Gene Morlog. "First of all, the prestige of our respective nations is at stake. There has been a lot of publicity about the Phoenix in the Western world. That airship must fly. Second, we are fighting The Brotherhood. Any victory against The Brotherhood is a victory for my nation—and for yours, Mr. Morlog. Or don't you consider it pure terrorism for the Phoenix II to be destroyed by a missile?"

Chimed in the Death Merchant sweetly, "If we hadn't made the raid on Jensen's estate, we wouldn't know about Hoghead Island. We wouldn't know about the missile."

Presented with such irrefutable facts and logic, the half-angry, half-embarrassed Morlog knew he was trapped. Yet he knew he couldn't remain silent; he had to give some kind of rebuttal. "Naturally it's terrorism to shoot down the Phoenix II," he admitted stiffly. "But let me ask you: do you believe that scores of wrongs on both sides can ever add up to one gigantic right. I personally don't think so."

The Death Merchant hooted in derision. "The trouble with you is that you're indulging in a form of epistemological solipsism. You've taken it upon yourself to decide what is total good and what is absolute evil. Survival makes its own laws because it has to."

"And now for something different from the eight-ball almanac!" laughed Phil Traw.

Without trying to, Sandra Irella saved face for Morlog by saying, "I've watched the biggest bunch of nonsense that I've seen and heard in years." She switched off the television set, turned and started back for her chair, all the while smiling. "They had an antiterrorist 'expert' on the Dave Bufflin program. The expert was attached to the New York police department. He said the answer to terrorism is gun control! Now I ask you, have you ever heard of anything more ridiculous? The ignorant son of a bitch reminds me of those spineless cowards who say 'Better Red than Dead!'"

The Death Merchant smiled. Traw and Spickler guffawed.

Putting down the binnacle, Traw growled, "Didn't Bufflin ask the nut why there are so many handgun murders in New York City, in a city where an honest man can't even own a twenty-two pistol for target practice? Almost every day some piece of trash is blowing up someone."

"Yes, Bufflin asked that question," Sandra said. "The answer of the 'expert' was that weapons are being brought in from out of state. For that reason he advocates National Gun Control—a Federal ban on all weapons! Handguns and long weapons both!"

"The poor damn fool!" sneered Spickler. "I'll bet the 'expert' didn't say one damn word about stiff sentences and the death penalty for dirt-bags who use handguns in crimes?"

Sandra, having lighted another cigarette, feigned shock and threw up her hands in mock astonishment. "Oh, my goodness! Of course not! The death sentence for some subhuman animal would be 'cruel and inhuman punishment'. You know how liberals and ACLU types are—forever blinded by their own emotionalism and forever twisting facts to suit their own stupid beliefs."

The Death Merchant leaned back and locked his hands on top of his head. "Antiterrorism is fundamentally a matter of developing good intelligence," he said firmly. "It's not enough to be prepared for a terrorist attack. The very essence of combating terrorism is to prevent it from starting—an almost impossible job." ...

Traw remarked, "There is also some question of how well local and federal forces are prepared in the intelligence area. It's not an easy proposition. First, you have to determine whether any particular group is in fact a genuine threat. Then you're talking about infiltration of the group by undercover operatives or informants, and all too often that is impossible." His gaze grabbed Morlog. "You talk about the FBI! Why its domestic intelligence division can't even get the goods on the Mafia!"

"It's mostly a matter of supposition and luck," Camellion said. "Without advance intelligence, it's hardly possible to stop well-trained foreign terrorists smuggled into the U.S. Into any country for that matter. Only in a well-guarded police state, where the borders are closed, can it be done."

"We can't even keep the damned wetbacks out," grumbled Traw.
Once Camellion learns from Jensen that a missile will be launched from Hoghead Island, off the coast of Maine, to take out the airship as it nears the American coast, he forms a commando team to storm the island and kill every member of the Brotherhood before they can fire the missile. (Afterwards, to their surprise, they discover two missiles on the island and suspect that one was going to detonate more than 200 pounds of nerve gas over New York City.) But that's immediately forgotten as Camellion's CIA boss Courtland Grojean wants to talk to the Death Merchant about his next job: The Vatican Assignment.

Etc.:

"Thanks to bungling and inefficiency, the American people don't get as much government as they pay for. For the same and other reasons, the American people never get the full truth from the media. They don't because the press only prints what it is told. News is also slanted."

"Double fudge and tacos!"

"They're either playing it very cool or scared diarrhealess."

The mansion was "as dark as the bottom of a sealed mine shaft".

"The sky was as black as the inside of a sealed bucket."

"Camellion rushed back into the office with more movement than a country girl at her first square dance."

"Like hypocrites the world over, Walberg always called upon God to help him in times of danger."

[In Camellion's mind] "Hoc est corpus meum! Dominus Lucis—I need your help!'

"The Alaskan roared, the big .44 flat-nosed bullet blowing up the goon's face and skull the way double-o buckshot would explode a tomato."

"The first .44 flat-nosed to leave the twelve and a half inch Mag-Na-Ported stainless steel barrel hit Flores with all the force of a runaway locomotive and opened a hole in his chest, into which a coroner could have dropped a quarter."

"It was like wearing a white suit and suddenly developing black dandruff."

"I'm drier than a baptist picnic."

"Tenacity and total ruthlessness were two traits that Grojean and Camellion shared in common, two attributes that linked the two together. Both men "lived" their jobs, their lives revolving totally around their work. Much of that work was Death. There wasn't any other way to keep the United States safe."

Friday, August 07, 2015

Get A Brain, (Canadian) Moran!

His campaign workers spell as well as he governs.


Stephen King: Lisey's Story (2006)

When Stephen King was asked two years ago which of his many novels was his favourite, he answered, without hesitation or qualification: Lisey's Story. He gave the same answer this summer, when asked which of his books was "the most personally meaningful".

King: "I've always felt that marriage creates its own secret world, and only in a long marriage can two people at least approach real knowledge of each other. I wanted to write about that, and felt that I actually got close to what I really wanted to say." The jacket states the book deals with "the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love".

Because of this, and because it concerns the widow of a famous horror novelist, and because of a Reddit comment - "Lisey's Story is really kind of an exploration of himself ... the dark places where his fame and talent came from" - I was quite curious about it.

However, I am giving up on the book about halfway through. One of the subplots has potential - a small-time hood is threatening Lisey Landon, demanding she give her late husband's papers (the award-winning author Scott Landon) to a certain university professor - but I'll have to look online to see how that turns out.

King's annoying writing tics have ruined whatever enjoyment I could get from the last few novels in this project. Has an editor ever told him that he's using a certain tic over and over and over, and some of them should be cut? Back in the 1980s, when he was consumed by his various addictions and was the most successful writer in the world, he wrote whatever the hell he wanted. No editor could tell him anything. And although King has been clean for quite awhile, perhaps things never changed.

In an afterword to this novel, King mentions his editor by name and says she marked the hell out of his manuscript. He even offers to show readers some pages if they disbelieve him. The manuscript may have been marked up, but who knows if King overruled the suggested changes.

The tic in Lisey's Story is when King alludes to some expression in a parenthetical, and notes where the character got it from, or mentions a different saying by some other person. An example: "King's writing tics really annoy me (they grind my gears, as the saying goes)." Or: "I was familiar with the situation. I had been around the block, as my father would have said."

Is this King's way of being folksy? Maybe he felt it reinforced the theme of a secret language and phrases used within the world of a marriage. As I kept reading along, half of my mind was waiting for the next example of this annoyance. I never had to wait very long. King starts doing it in the book's second paragraph:
None of Lisey's sisters was immune to the pleasures of setting the cat among the pigeons ("stirring up a stink" had been their father's phrase for it ...) (page 3)

Her husband had headed south from Rumford, where they had been living ("like a couple of wolverines caught in a drainpipe," Scott said ... (4)

They hadn't been clear on that at first; they weren't down with it, as the saying was. (5)

The man had passed on, as the saying was ... (11)

If he was, she'd meant to be there when he stepped out. When he Went, as the folks of her mother and father's generation would have said. (23)

Very zen, grasshoppah, Scott might have said. (24)

--Broken glass in the morning, broken hearts at night. That was Granny D's scripture, all right ... (30)

... speaking in his new whispering, effortful voice, sometimes just enough is just enough. As the saying is. (30)

... where the new library would stand (the word is pronounced LAH-bree in Dashmiel-ese). (31)

When he's like this, Scott could sell Frigidaires to Inuits, as the saying is ... (37)

Scott Landon hits the deck, as the saying is. (45)

And she supposes she does know some of it. The long boy, he calls it. (49)

What was old Dandy's saying? I didn't fall off a hayrick yesterday! (51-52)

... from the sort of hucksters Scott had called "phone-lice." (54)

... but Lisey always sensed it as what Scott would have called "a subtext." (54)

It's not a word she wants to hear emerging from her own mouth (it's a Blondie word), but needs must when the devil drives - as Dandy also said ... (56)

Scott almost always rents them a hideout, even if the gig is just what he calls "the old in-out" (56)

What Darla, second-oldest of the Debusher girls, would have called comfort-foot, and what Scott - with great relish - would have called eatin nasty. (62)

What he used to call "foul matter." (75)

What Scott might have called the puffickly huh-yooge ... (78)

This, however ... this bool, to use Scott's word ... (82)

According to Scott, it was the power-lines (what he liked to call "UFO refueling stations") (83)

... what Scott had sometimes been pleased to call - usually in a bad Howard Cosell imitation - "the claret." (87)

Well, turnabout was fair play, so Good Ma had liked to claim, although shite had been their Dad's word, as it had been Dandy Dave who would sometimes tell folks a thing was no good, so I slang it forth. (97)

A project, the Yankee oldtimers like her very own Dad might have said. (97)

Case smucking closed, babyluv, Scott would have said. (98)

It had been what her boyfriend would no doubt call a total smuckup ... (107)

... about her crazy fucked-up family - oh, pardon me, that's crazy smucked-up family, in Scott-talk ... (108)

He would make the scene, as the saying was. (108)

In hopes of getting his end wet. Another one of Scott's catches from the word-pool ... (108)

There was also getting your ashes hauled, dipping your wick, making the beast with two backs, choogling, and the very elegant ripping off a piece. (108)

... she thought of Darla saying, Do what you want, you always do. (108)

He was, in her Dad's words, cruising for a bruising. (109)

... could take her in until the baby was put out for adoption - that was how Jodi said it ... (110)

It's bool, another Scott word ... (114)

All the bad-gunky. Surely another postcard from his childhood. (115)

... three of what her Dad called "the fat fingers" are also cut. (117)

... has been crushed by - what do they call them in Chuckie's Insider? - recovered memories. (121)

.. and the dead mother he supposedly killed because he - how did the hotshot writer put it? - growed too big. (123)

"What's the old saying? 'Call me anything you want, just don't call me late to dinner.'" (126)

... her periods of "passive semi-catatonia," to use the shrink's phrase. (135)

In the Debusher family, where there was a saying for everything, urinating was spending a penny and moving one's bowels was - odd but true - burying a Quaker. (139)

Amanda's eyes continued to star serenely off into the distance. Or into the mystic, if you were a Van Morrison fan. (140)

Fakin like a brakeman, Dandy would have said (141)

It was what Scott called "the fame-card," ... (143)

Or, as Scott himself had once said, by injection. (145)

laying out what he himself would have called "stations of the bool." (148)

(pretty much bowled over, as the saying was) (150-51)

I know what nurses call people like her, they call em gorks ... (153)

"U.S. Gypsum," she said. "only Sparky called it U.S. Gyppum." (155)

He calls it their frontloaded honeymoon. (156)

Except when he was drunk. Then he called them The Four Cleancut Honkies. (160)

... what were called "barncats" in this neck of the woods. (170)

Big diddly, as Cantata had been fond of saying in her teenage yeras. (173)

... she was going to blow her groceries, toss her cookies, throw her heels, donate her lunch. (173)

... she was prepared to leave what Scott might have called "a huh-yoogely provocative message" ... (174)

When you were really angry - when you wanted to tear someone a new asshole, as the saying was ... (174)

... had become what Woodbody described as "sort of buddies." (179)

For the third time that day - third time's the charm, Good Ma would have said, third time pays for all ... (187)

If Dooley "checked by" (Clutterbuck's oddly delicate way of putting it) ... (189)

Perversely he hung on (hung on like a toothache, Dad Debusher would've said) ... (191)

Back to the attic, back to the spare bedroom, back to the cellar. Back to the future, Scott would surely have added ... (194)
That is an incomplete list from the first 200 pages. King's pace with this shit never lets up and this book is 520 pages long.

Life is too short to read bad books.

Next: Blaze (as Richard Bachman).

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Death Merchant #51: The Inca File

In the deepest heart of the Andes mountains, surrounded by the thick dark jungles of Peru lie the ancient medical secrets of the Incas. The Soviets send in a mission to get their thieving hands on this priceless information, new drugs with the capacity to increase Soviet world power one hundred percent.

The CIA hears of the Russian expedition and sends out its own team to investigate, a team that vanishes without a trace. It becomes frighteningly clear this is no ordinary crisis - it's time for the Death Merchant to go into action, the kind of unparalleled destruction no one is ever prepared for.


***

The Inca File has Richard Camellion once again working with Mad Mike Quinlan and his Thunderbolt Unit: Omega kill-specialists. (Omega has been called in to assist the Death Merchant in a few recent end-of-book battles, but here they are doing some wet work right as the book opens.)

The Incan "ancient medical secrets" mentioned on the back cover are located at Pachu Ittu, an ancient site in Peru meant to be a stand-in for Machu Pichhu. Rosenberger lays out the plot. Hundreds of years ago, Incan priests made use of certain drugs that could reputedly cure cancer, insanity, and "nervous disorders" like Parkinson's disease. (How the Incans knew about Parkinson's disease is not explained.)
What intrigued the CIA was the technique that was used to cure all forms of cancer: the Inca priests would "manipulate" a human being's qupa capac hu-tiqu, an individual's "earth spirit of light." ...

[The CIA had learned that the KGB] was sending an expedition into the Andes in an effort to learn these secrets. How? By searching for a treasure trove of quipus that, mathematically, would reveal exact scientific formulas. Although the Incas had not had a written language, they had had a system called quipus—knotted strings, often of different colors and lengths.
CIA scientists were convinced that the "earth spirit of light" was actually the "human aura, the electromagnetic charge generated by the M-Field that is part and parcel of every living thing, animal and vegetable". Rosenberger fills the next two pages with mumbo jumbo that explains the M-Field.
The M-field could also explain many paranormal events. Past-life experiences (as well as deja vu) might be just a thin layer of an individual's M-field. ... [T]he theory could explain many things that had puzzled scientists for hundreds of years. It could explain such discrepancies as inequitably distributed knowledge and cultural patterns among human beings. ...

Thinking about it, sitting there on the couch, the Death Merchant knew it would be a long time before scientists in general would accept the concept of the M-field. Their specialist mentalities were too small, taking a form of mental and spiritual eclecticism, whether in philosophy or electronics. What was actually needed: that which could expand scientific concepts beyond the capacity of the universities; to endow people with the necessary capacity. Yet there weren't the instructional or pedagogical resources to change and expand scientific thought in the proper way—Man is an eternal intelligence walking around, for the moment, in a body. Try telling that to establishment scientists!
Anyway ... so it's up to Camellion and his team to trek to Pachu Ittu, get rid of the Russian "pig farmers" who are already searching the ancient site, and secure the valuable quipus for themselves.

On the journey to the temple, however, Rosenberger offers too much description of minor events, like setting up a radio transmitter one evening. Nothing happens while the men set it up - and the equipment works when they turn it on. Episodes like this seem written simply to fill pages.

Camellion's force gets near the Inca city well before the end of the book, and they engage in at least two big battles with the Russians before taking over the site. Camellion and the others have absolutely no problem blowing the holy hell out of this ancient site with all manner of grenades, explosives, and gunfire. I was hoping Rosenberger would tell us a little more about the quipus, but the book ends with the CIA preparing to continue digging under the Temple of the Sun.

One interesting moment: After some small squabble before the team sets out on its journey, Camellion demands that the men cease any and all racist comments. "Just remember that I'll slap silly the first man who starts trouble with any racist bullshit!" Quinlan backs him up, saying, "There isn't going to be any trouble due to racism on this damned plateau. If Canyon* doesn't break the back of the man who starts it, I can—and will." They must mean canning racist comments directed at each other, because even after Camellion's stern warning, various members of the team refer to "spics", "chili-peppers", "Jose-boys", etc., and the Death Merchant doesn't do shit. [*: Camellion's alias is "Dean Canyon".]

In one footnote, Rosenberger makes reference to an upcoming Death Merchant book: #53, The Vatican Assignment. At the end of the next book, The Vatican Assignment is also mentioned. However, DM #53 was actually titled The Judas Scrolls.

According to one of the few interviews with author Joseph Rosenberger, the man behind the Death Merchant did not like to travel. That makes his extensive research for these books even more remarkable. Apparently, he used old issues of National Geographic as part of his research. (If he ever simply made things up, he did a good job of hiding it.)
They made camp that night in a grove of coigüe trees, beautiful, graceful formed trees native to Chile. The Chilenas porters made a fire and heated water for Yerba maté tea; they would eat humitas, a mass of corn and husks boiled, and charqui, a good-tasting meat, sun-dried flesh of the llama. The scientists unpacked their sleeping bags and prepared to make a meal of powdered milk and Compo-Rations.10 For desert [sic] they would have coffee and hi-energy survival candy. ...

Footnote 10: Composition Combat meals—packed exactly like C-rations. There are 12 meals with 6 menus: brunswick stew, beans with chicken franks, turkey and dumplings spaghetti with beef, chicken hash, turkey loaf plus accessory packet.

The Chileans sat as quietly as statues, huddled around their fire, one of them occasionally tossing a piece of wood into the low flames. Unlike the other members of the expedition, the ten bearers wore their own "native" costumes—heavy woolen chamantos (pull-over shawls), under which was a short poncho, a short-cut jacket; a fajas, or sash; leather pants and high leather boots; and a toctos, or floppy brimmed hat. ...

There was more than the "Sun Mountain" to the haunted panorama. There was the valley, Our Lady of the Pains, covered with mist as thick as whipped cream. Below the mist would be the forest. But not a rain forest. There would be abundant araucaria pine, rauli beech (both well known for their wood) and the unusual quillay tree (whose bark could be used as soap). There would be numerous birds, such as the garza and the queltehue. The jilguero would still wail in the darkness and parrots would hatter in the daytime. There wouldn't be any insects. the dirt wouldn't wiggle. Creepy, crawly things could not exist at this altitude. ...

In the dim past, hundreds of years earlier, the Indians had cultivated potatoes on these terraces, and quinua, the heavily-seeded stalk that could grow well above the timberline and tolerate frost and drought and turned every color of the rainbow as it ripened. The Incas used the quinua as cereal for making flour and thickening soups. This along with sara (corn), and Chuno (dehydrated potatoes) had fed the Inca people and their armies.
Towards the end of the book, Rosenberger gives us his usual highly-detailed descriptions of hand-to-hand combat:
As fast and deadly as Mad Mike was Ali Bassam Safadi, who had killed three MIRs with lightening-fast Nukite, Shuto and other hand strikes, not to mention a variety of front or rear spin, thrust, and snap kicks. Safadi gave Arnaldo Lacosti a Kakato Geri heel kick that sent the Fracción Roja yokel crashing back into Bull Wohlwebber who instantly snapped Lacosti's neck with a Commando Break—left palm heel to the chin, a right palm heel to the right side of the head and a quick, powerful twist. Snap! Crackle! Pop! That's all there was to it. The dead Lacosti hadn't even decorated the ground with his dirty corpse when Wohlwebber used a Sokuto Geri sword-foot-kick aimed at a fat, ugly slob who had a bandanna tied around his black greasy hair. Fat Boy jumped back. Wohlwebber's kick missed. But Fat Boy's backward movement put him within striking range of the deadly knife expert, José Jesus Santino who had a Colt AR-15 bayonet in each hand and had just sliced the left side of a terrorist's neck and was pulling back on the bloody blade. Twice as fast as a striking cobra irritated during the mating season, Santino used the left bayonet to stab Fat Boy in the right armpit while he used the left AR-15 to stab the joker in the back of the neck, the sharp blade going all the way through and tickling the top of Fat Boy's Adam's apple. When Santino stopped pushing on the bayonet, three inches of the steel was sticking out the front of the man's thick throat, the blade dripping blood. Santino lowered his arm as the dumb-bell fell and let the weight of the corpse slide the 200 pounds of dead meat from the blade. . A fine kill.

Not far from Santino, "Iron Glove" Hyde was a whirlwind of pure destruction, although he was not wearing on his right hand the Middle Ages gauntlet, made of chain mail over leather, for which he was famous. Instead he was swinging not only an octagon rosewood Nunchaku, but also using a thirty-six inch long Japanese Manrikigusari chain to attack, block, defend, throw, lock, and disarm. Whenever one of the "bolts" made contact, an enemy howled in pain and bones were broken. Or a man died instantly, such as Captain Paul Radam Chorfniff, one of the Soviet GRU advisers. One of the end bolts slammed into his left temple and smashed through the temporal bones as though they were toilet paper. The pig farmer blinked his eyes and dropped dead.
Rosenberger also mentions that Quinlan was "a man few others could match in hand-to-hand combat. Camellion was one of those few—but only because of his iron-clad agreement with the Cosmic Lord of Death".

At the very end of the book, his mission completed, Camellion acts drunk and stumbles around, falling onto two military officials (who he had vowed to kill earlier in the book). Several days later, the two men die within hours of each other, apparently from heart attacks. CIA chief Cortland Grojean demands that Camellion tell him what really happened, but the Death Merchant feigns innocence and says nothing. Only Rosenberger's lengthy footnote clues us in:
The Death Merchant used DIM-MAK—Chinese-sometimes called "The Poison Hand of Death" or the delayed death touch. On the human body there are 308 nerve points, which will adversely affect the body; 72 of these points are considered extremely harmful, comprising what are known as the "running nerves"—not that they go anywhere, but they are the time-related ones. Typically, they are associated with a major nerve of the peripheral nervous system or of a blood vessel. Attacking the DIM-MAK points causes a "damning" of the Ch'I energy, and there are various methods of attacking the points.

When the Death Merchant fell against Barella and Prado, used the Bye-Mak technique—and it takes an expert. This method is the pinching off of a vessel that results in a blocked blood flow and blod clots, which, in time, travel to the most unfortunate places—for the victim.

The Death Merchant used the Bye-Mak method because Barella and Prado were heavy eaters of meat and lots of food high in cholesterol. Knowing also that the victim is one of those super-ordered people who goes to bed and rises on schedule also helps: his meridian clock-time will be "dead-on."

A Bye-Mak strike at the proper time, on a vessel near the Fee Ti Hsueh point will break off a chunk of cholesterol, which lines the veins, and this piece will lodge in the heart days or weeks later depending on how the Bye-Mak strike is delivered. In later books, we will inform the reader how this deadly strike is accomplished.
So stay tuned!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Death Merchant #50: The Hellbomb Theft

Only three days after the end of his last assignment in South Yemen, detailed in Night Of The Peacock, Richard Camellion is in Frankfort, West Germany, tracking members of the terrorist organization, the Brotherhood.

It turns out the previous mission was only half-completed. Before Colonel al Bin Shaabi was killed by the Death Merchant, he had extensive conversations with Muammar Kaddafi, the "crackpot dictator of Libya". Kaddafi is still expecting delivery of two ADMs (Atomic Demolition Munitions or "Little A's", as the CIA calls them). It's up to the DM (working under the name Norlyn Kester) to find the suitcase bombs before it is too late.

After an explosion at Ramstein Air Force Base, 20 men are found dead and 2 ADMs were stolen. That afternoon, a KGB agent walks into the US embassy in Bonn with information on the two stolen mini-nukes. The bombs have been stolen by a "world-wide criminal syndicate" known as the Brotherhood and the KGB has proof that Kaddafi has paid the Brotherhood $135 million to steal and deliver the ADMs to him. Kaddafi plans to have the bombs smuggled into Tel Aviv and detonated. The Russians end up working with the US to find the bombs and keep them out of Kaddafi's hands.

The Hellbomb Theft includes raids on a furniture factory, a farmhouse, an abandoned brewery, and a castle. After Camellion and his commando crew gain access to the brewery by crawling through an abandoned sewer pipe (they "felt that they were moving within the giant bowel of some alien animal"), author Joseph Rosenberger takes time out to explain how beer is made. And in the big fight at the castle, even after everyone's ammo is exhausted and the men are fighting only with their hands or using empty weapons as blunt instruments, Rosenberger fills 11 pages with intensely-described action.

And in what I think is a first in the Death Merchant series, Camellion is actual shot and wounded during the final moments of the raid. He passes out, only to awaken a few days later in a hospital bed. He is told he nearly bled to death. His next mission, in Peru, will have to wait approximately six weeks until he recovers.

As is usually the case with Rosenberger, it is the non-plot stuff that is most entertaining.

With the Russians and Americans working together, there are plenty of opportunities for political discussions that are little more than pointing out the hypocrisies and bad deeds of each nation (and who supports terrorism more). There is also a two-page discussion about Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Just because.

In discussing the search mission of the Germans and the fact that the bombs are likely still hidden in West Germany, Camellion notes that the terrorists would not have had time to drive the bombs out of the country:
"[T]hey would have had to drive very slowly through the six villages or else risk arousing suspicion. German traffic police don't take kindly to speeding."

Albert Wittenborn interrupted, saying heartily, "You can say that again, Kester. A driver caught drunk behind a wheel loses his license for one year, even if it's his first offense. It's a good law."

"We should have such a law in the States," tacked on Arnie Stipe, shifting about in his chair. "We don't because the good liberals won't permit such inhuman treatment of drunken trash."
Relaxing on a flight to Munich, Camellion muses about BND agent Paul Richelman and his belief "that war is just around the corner".
Richelman was basing his belief on the predictions of Nostradamus, the sixteenth century French physician and astrologist who had correctly predicted, among other things, the rise of Napoleon in the early 1800s, the coming to power of militaristic leaders in Italy, Germany, and Spain - Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco - the two world wars and World War III.

If one was to believe Nostradamus, World War III would break out before 1986, a world-wide conflict in the U.S., England, and France, and religious persecution in Poland. West Germany, the most powerful nation in Europe, would be invaded by a Soviet-Arab army that would land on the Mediterranean coasts of Italy and France. The war would last three years and seven months. Western Europe would be occupied by the Soviet Red Army for two years. Paris and Rome would be completely destroyed.

The Soviet Union would eventually lose, suffering a series of serious defeats at the hands of the Americans. One such defeat would be in Italy, another one somewhere in the Alps. The final Soviet defeat would take place in Armenia, now a part of the Soviet Union and of Turkey.

The Death Merchant knew that world trends and indicators now had a striking similarity with those in 1937, 1938, and 1939. His own research indicated that ...

Richelman had said to Camellion, "Nineteen eighty-two will be the beginning of riots and civil disorder in the United States. The danger of the United States begin involved in a war is very great in 1983. You see, Herr Kester, Mars is forming a conjunction with its midheavens." As an astrologer, Richelman had made a chart for Washington, D.C., and explained that, since the planet Mars is related to military activity, the implications that the United States would be involved in a world war - "Or at least a major conflict!" - were extremely apparent.

Frightening? Not to the Death Merchant, who knew that it was ignorance and a lack of knowledge of man's true role and place in the Universe that generated fear in society, especially fear of the unknown.

Camellion smiled softly to himself. What would the "man-on-the-street" think if the United States government announced that for the past seventeen years the government had known that an intelligence from outside our own "Milky Way" galaxy had been "observing" Earth for thousands of years and, over the years, had made contact with certain individuals on this planet. [A footnote refers readers to two Death Merchant books: The Shambhala Strike (#30) and The Bermuda Triangle Action (#37) as proof!] ...

Men in general are not meant to know certain things, certain hidden knowledge that, if known to the world's people, would destroy them.

Man is a sleeping puppet playing at ceremonial charades called religion!

The Death Merchant knew it. Paul Richelman knew it. Both knew that the creature called Man is a bridge between two worlds, the earthly and the supersensitive, between the "real" and the "unreal".
Rosenberger continues for another two pages, culminating in an anti-religion rant. Camellion agrees with Richelman that "America is now in danger from crackpots who believe they are doing the 'will of God'":
The Moral Majority - in reality a minority of self-righteous loudmouths - were shredding the spiritual fabric of American society by their constant attack on diversity of opinion, threatening through political pressure and public denunciation anyone who might dare disagree with their Hitler-like authoritarian positions. Bible-pounding boobs who peddle coercion, who go about pressing for "truths" and "doctrines" that are dangerous fairy tales of nonsense. The same idiots who maintain that "God doesn't hear the prayers of Jews!" Uneducated, steeped-in-stupidity polyester "mystics" who have brought about a resurrection of bigotry that is manifesting itself in racism and discriminatory postures!
Later, Camellion and a German named Bruno Zeitenhausen discuss "law enforcement efforts" in the United States. It turns out that (coincidentally!) Zeitenhausen holds the exact same opinions as most of the DM series' characters: he blames minorities for everything bad.
"It is not the fault of your American policemen," Zeitenhausen had said. "It is the fault of your politicians who kiss the arsch of the so called minorities, the blacks and the browns who have already wrecked your nation with violence. It will become worse, with riots in all your cities. It will happen because you Americans do not know how to control the savages in your midst. There is nothing more destructive to any society that the unequal philosophy of 'equal rights,' which conveniently ignores equal responsibility. American, your nation has already been invaded. The 'Hun' is already in your midst."
Camellion agrees: "Liberals always condemn violently anyone who disagrees with their bigoted doctrines."

With Rosenberger needing to describe every gun being used and the caliber of everyone's ammunition - he did this much less in the earlier books, so I assume this was the trend in the industry - the action scenes get a bit clogged:
The Death Merchant jumped back in time. A wave of 5.56 x 45mm (or .223 Remington) and 7.62mm x 25 Tokarev projectiles flooded over the two doors and turned the thick glass into a million pieces of sharp fragments. ...

Weapons consisted of a Heckler & Koch MP 5K sub-machine gun ... and a P-38 Walther autopistol, with five spare magazines. ... [T]he German agents carried autoloaders of various makes, all Walthers, P9Ss, PSPs and VP70Zs. Conversely, the Company men carries pistols of non-German manufacture. Arnold Stipe was armed with two 9mm Berettas. Wittleborn carried two 9mm Colt Commanders, Cutler two Safari Arms .45 Enforcers in the side pockets of his fatigues. ... The Death Merchant carried not only a MP 5K SMG ... but a .44 "Backpacker" Auto Mag in a belt holster and two .45 MatchMakers ... He also carried a hand-held Model AM-180 short-barrelled .22 SMG.
Etc.:

The night "was as black as the inside of a barrel buried in concrete".

The barn was "deserted - as empty as the head of a Russian peasant".

Jablonsky: "a Czech so fat he must have left stretch marks on any vehicle he entered".

"Kurk Gnagi, who had a face like a scrambled egg ..."

"Ridiculous! That pig farmer from Mother Russia is better dressed than any of us. How does a peasant from the land of the red oink-oink rate a suit from an exclusive men's shop in London's Savile Row?"

"The sows in the barnyard of the Soviet Union tend to be as lumpy (in the wrong places) as a flophouse mattress."

"Our consciousness is only a value that permits but a few drops of awareness to trickle through, just as much as is necessary for us to stay alive on this particular little dot of a planet - without our going stark raving mad!"

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Death Merchant #49: Night Of The Peacock

The Death Merchant is in South Yemen, trying to stop Colonel Qahtan al Bin Shaabi (of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen) from collaborating with various Russian officials on a possible invasion and annexation of North Yemen. Richard Camellion, who claims to abhor racism of any type, is tasked to battle what he refers to as terrorist "sand crabs" in the Middle East.

Night of the Peacock opens with Camellion sneaking up on Rabadh Yahya Tabriz's desert camp. The goal is to assassinate Tabriz, the leader of the Dasni (or Yezidis), who is expected to offer military support to Shaabi. Shaabi needs the Dasni rebels on his side when he attacks North Yemen, and the Soviets need Shaabi and his Marxist goons in an ultimate move against Saudi Arabia. Author Joseph Rosenberger helpfully offers a ton of background information on Yemeni history, outlining the succession of governments, and various coups and actions.

Camellion (as a representative of the CIA) is working with members of Sons of the Falcon, an underground organization in South Yemen, and one that is virulent anti-Shaabi. However, although Camellion and his men kill a few Dasni guards, they are unable to get Tabriz. So they hot-foot it away from the village of Danikil and fly back to Riyadh to discuss their next moves.

Soon, Camellion and eight other men (and 29 camels) are walking across the desert, disguised as Bedouins. They are making their way, over the course of about 10 days, from Al-Lu-baylah (a small oasis on the edge of Rub' al Khali) to the city of Aden. Rosenberger devotes several chapters to the monotonous journey of crossing the "Empty Quarter". They meet other groups of travellers and for awhile you think some violence might break out, but nothing happens.

One thing Rosenberger does in all of these books is provide in-depth descriptions of the cities, the citizens and their customs. They often read like encyclopedia entries - he apparently relied heavily on back issues of National Geographic - and have little-to-nothing to do with the plot, but they do show his high level of research, something that was much harder to do in the early 1980s:
The Death Merchant and his small band, now mingling with a stream of traffic pouring into the city - people of the various Arab tribes riding camels, horses, donkeys; or leading packed camels, horses or donkeys - saw their first Yemeni houses on the northeast side of the city, fortresslike houses built of multicolored stone or brightly painted adobe mud brick, some three stories high. Some houses had tiny windows and crenelated roofs, others layered rows of stone slate jutting out to protect the walls against the seasonal rains.

This was the old spice route and this river of traffic would enter the Crater, the old commercial quarter of Aden. There were three other quarters - at-Tawāhī, the business section, Ma'alah, the native harbor area, and at-Wanani, a small residential section for the wealthy and the influential. ...

There were hundreds of travelers spread out along the stone-paved route, men and women from the various Middle East and African tribes - not all of them Semites as were the Arabs. There were the Hamitic Beja from the northern Sudan, with their copper-red to deep-brown skin; the tall Beraber with their colorful clothes and pretty unveiled women, the arms of the females loaded down with copper and brass bracelets; people of the Zeer, Yafelman, Zemmun and other tribes who spoke the Berber language. And many, many Arabs; the Djerba, the Filala, the kabyle, the Shammar, etc.
In Aden, they meet with Nuri Boustani and his group, Ibn'u Alib Saqr. After learning from Boustani that Shaabi will be departing from the Aden airport in two days, Camellion formulates a plan of attack at the airport. The men with him are not too keen on the idea: "Today we are fire. Tomorrow, we will be ashes."

Nevertheless, the group approaches the airport at night, kills a couple of guards patrolling the perimeters, and steals their uniforms. While wearing the uniforms, Camellion and Colonel bin Maktum are able to commandeer an armoured car, crash a hole in the protective fence and let the rest of the group through. In a repeat of the action described in at least one previous DM book, they drive two armoured cars around the airport, blasting the holy hell out of everything and everyone. With the airport in ruins - Shaabi survives, hiding in one of the hangars - they head towards a Soviet transport plane, in which Camellion aims to have everyone escape.

The action of Camellion flying the plane from takeoff to an extremely bumpy landing in the mountains is pretty suspenseful, even though the reader knows there is absolutely no way that Camellion won't land it safely. (Because this is Rosenberger, Camellion also has random thoughts flitting through his head during the flight, most notably how crime rates have risen in California because of the abolition of the death penalty.) The men meet up with Yadollah I'Zoir, who leads them through the mountains to meet Ali Sa'galli, the head of the Sons of the Falcon. Camellion and Sa'galli have a multi-page conversation about Soviet expansionism, the stupidity of the U.S. government, and the insanity of gun control. The Death Merchant also rants about having to pay five-cent deposits on beer and soda bottles! ("Instead of cracking down on people who litter, they force nonlitterers to pay deposits on beverage bottles to ensure their return.")

Later, the Death Merchant lays out the particulars of Operation Camelback, which will include Sa'galli's fighters, as well as 200 professional mercenaries - Mad Mike Quinlan and his Thunderbolt Unit: Omega. They will be transported to Aden to attack the heart of the capital: the Government House. But Camellion soon receives a message that Shaabi knows their location (his planes have been flying overhead) and is meeting with Tabriz, formulating a plan to attack with a force of 600 men. The Aden attack is aborted and the Death Merchant and Quinlan's and Sa'galli's fighters will immediately attack Tabriz's main camp instead.

Fourteen helicopters transport the men to the site of the attack. First, five of the copters fire tens of thousands of rounds into the village of Danikil. The five copters can fire a total of 36,000 rounds per minute and they lay waste to nearly everyone in the village. All of the copters land and the armed men jump out, ready to finish the attack. Shaabi, his assistant, and the three Russians have taken cover in the Temple of Melek Taus. The fighters go house to house in their slaughter and, eventually, converge on the temple. Camellion blows open the wooden doors with several blocks of RDX explosives and they charge inside. A fierce shootout ensues, with plenty of martial arts fighting. Naturally, the evil doers are killed.

Rosenberger describes the action in exquisite detail, while also telling us the name of every fighter and exactly what type of firearm and ammunition he is using:
Surprise! The atsonished [sic] Dasni were promptly cut to pieces by Manfred "Scarface" Rohde who started raking the area with a Heckler & Koch GMBH G3A4 automatic rifle. With the battered-faced West German, leaning around the broken and jagged wall stones at the south end of the rip in the east wall, were Rashid al-Khaima, firing an Igram [sic] sub-gun, and Carlos Luis Ceron, an Omega merc from Argentina, who was firing short, deadly bursts of 9mm Parabellum slugs from a Belgian Mitraillette Vigneron M2 chatter box; and while the three men saturated the area with streams of high velocity death, other Omega kill experts poured through the ugly gap and stormed forward, running in a crooked pattern. With them came the Death Merchant, ducking and darting, dodging and weaving, an AMP Alaskan in each hand. A 5.45mm AKS projectile spub by his head, only three centimeters from his left temple. Half an eyeblink later, a 9mm Vitmorkin machine pistol slug, fired by Major Vasili Tarasov, almost struck his wrist as his right arm was raised. Instead of hitting flesh and bone and almost tearing off his hand, the flatnosed slug struck the edge of his Seiko, shattered the wristwatch and sent the blown-apart mechanism to the four hot winds.
Etc.:

Camellion's .44 projectile bored into the left side of the Arab's chest and blew open a hole in his body large enough to permit the passage of ping-pong balls.

As happy as a drunken hillbilly with a credit card, Rashid al-Khaima began firing ...

"Well, kiss my transmission!" (this strange expression is actually used twice)

Death Merchant: "I don't want your brain to rush to your head!"

Cooked human flesh has the aroma of a good grade of pork.

Camellion prepared the explosives "all the while wishing he could hear Liszt's Les Preludes - perfect music to kill by".